The open sewer New River runs past many low-income homes in Calexico, California.

CA Legislators Announce Human Right to Water Bill

Dan Bacher
3/1/11

Sacramento, CA—Safe drinking water is becoming more and more of an issue in California, with up to 8.5 million residents forced to rely on water supplies that have been deemed unsafe more than five times in a single year.

On Monday, legislators, safe water advocates and residents of California communities without access to safe drinking water announced the Human Right to Water bill package, introduced to the state senate by assembly members Mike Eng, Paul Fong and V. Manuel Pérez. Community advocates, affected residents and Catarina de Albuquerque, the United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Right to Water, were also on hand.

"The six-bill package includes [legislation that] would make it a policy of the state that every Californian has a human right to clean, accessible water for basic human needs," said Debbie Davis, policy director of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW), a network of more than 50 grassroots organizations that works to empower communities to advocate for water justice. "The five additional bills make changes in state law to begin implementing the human right to water policy and promote access to safe water for the health and well-being of all Californians."

More than 11.5 million other Californians rely on water from suppliers that experienced at least one violation of State Drinking Water Standards as reported to the Department of Public Health in 2004, according to Davis.

"In far too many communities, the sole water supply is contaminated, and families unable to afford treatment are left entirely without safe water," stated Davis. "In the Central Valley and Central Coast regions, more than 90 percent of communities depend on groundwater for drinking while nitrate levels in groundwater are sometimes well above safe limits. These communities are at particular risk of adverse health impacts from contaminated water supplies."

Besides the Human Right to Water bill, the package includes proposed legislation on language access, cleanup and abatement funding and a drinking water plan.

"The Human Right to Water bill passed the Legislature and was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009," said Davis. "We are hopeful that with Brown's experience on California water issues, we'll have a different outcome this year."

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